36 Books Blog: Raki Kopernik

Raki Kopernik, author of The Things You Left

Novel & Short Story category, sponsored by College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University

Each week leading up to the 33rd annual Minnesota Book Awards announcement, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our 36 finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

In a year defined by a pandemic and its fallout, virtually everything about our lives has changed in some way. How has COVID-19 impacted your writing habits and preferences? Has the unique zeitgeist of the past year influenced your writing output in any ways that you can pinpoint?  

I was lucky to have a couple of residencies this year (solo with my writing partner) that I applied to before the pandemic. Having geographic space away from the stress of everything gave me the gift of internal mental space to write. Those two weeks of residency were the highlights of my year, and the most I wrote all year. Although I haven’t been inspired or had the energy to write as much as usual, my relationship to writing has become more tender. As happens with crisis, I appreciate the gift of being a writer so much more now. 

Would you tell us one or two things about your finalist book that you are particularly proud of, and why? (Sure, it may feel a bit un-Minnesotan to say so, but it’s not boasting if we ask!) 

Short story collections are my favorite books to read, so I feel proud to have one of my own, created from my dreams, my heart, and my imagination. I remember writing each story and where the inspiration came from. 

What do you hope that your audience learns or takes away from your book?  

I hope readers feel engaged and connected and limitless and expansive in creativity. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer with an interest in your category? 

You can write about anything, even if you know it’s been written about before. The subject is not the story. Your voice and your relationship to it is what makes writing beautiful. 

Tell us something about yourself that is not widely known! (It doesn’t have to be about your writing.) 

I’m a pickle juice drinker. 

Raki Kopernik is author of The Memory House, a 2020 Minnesota Book Award finalist, and The Other Body chapbook. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and has been shortlisted and nominated for several other awards, including the Pushcart Prize and the Pen Faulkner Award in Fiction. She is a fiction editor at Mayday Magazine